Monday, October 17, 2005

Attention

Attention is a problem. Or least giving something my full attention is. I've noticed that my attention span has grown dramatically shorter over the last ten years. I used to be able to read a book and give it my full attention for 5 hours, 10 hours or even more. Now even a good book only lasts about 3 hours at best. I used to be able to put on a Phillip Glass or Brian Eno CD and just listen to it for an hour, with no problems. No any more. I've been trying to get into Peake's Gormenghast (known to have a slow start) for a while now and I find it incredibly hard.

It's not just books and music. I don't have the attention to watch TV or read the news. It's really quite scary. If something does not require interaction then it's just too boring.

So what has caused this? Obviously our life is full of interruption and our minds are having to change to be able to cope with the interrupt-driven lifestyle. I have recently come across Linda Stone and her term "continuous partial attention" at the Attention Panel (discussion) during Supernova 2005. Someone said that " we're over-stimulated, over-wound, unfulfilled." So very true.

So what can you do. It's not like you can just ignore the interruptions, because our work life (I noticed this specially at IBM) is so very interrupt driven. I might have got a 20 minute stretch at best on any given day without interruptions. What can we do? Change our lifestyle (and by that I mean work as well). Learn to live with it?

I'd rather not live with it because I really miss being able to read a good book, or listen to a CD or just DO NOTHING for a few hours.

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